Blogsam and Jetsam

Flotsam is the part of the wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on the water. Jetsam is cargo or parts of a ship that are deliberately thrown overboard, as to lighten the ship in an emergency, and that subsequently either sinks or is washed ashore. This is my personal blog version of the above. Loot freely.

My Photo
Location: The Hinterlands, Upstate NY

I'm annoyed that the world is going crazier faster than it used to be. But it's interesting to watch.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Technical Notice:

I'll attempt to re-post the whole steeking story since the pictures seem to be permanently un-view-able.

Also some progress photos on The Afghan and eventually another amazing Parent Story.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Weekend Party

Work continues to suck but I’ve gotten more sanguine about the fact that it just will suck from now till about mid-May.

Besides, I had a complete change of pace Friday-to-Sunday being in servitude to the Family Unit: without realizing it we’d worked a social event for each kid into the weekend. Eldest had a dance on Friday night which was no big deal other than having to schlep out on the bitter cold. Middle Duckling had a two-hour party at a venue half an hour from our house on Saturday, which was annoying but the birthday party attended by Youngest Duckling on Sunday afternoon was too much to let slide without its own blog entry.

Backstory: Youngest Duckling goes to the afterschool program at Local Big DayCare Center (hereafter Horde Central) which is also the local Montessori School. It’s always a complete zoo there but Horde Central is both the only private school within a half-hour drive and the only custodial before-and-after-school daycare. Youngest Duckling really enjoys the extra socialization and stimulus and the Big Two enjoy having quiet afterschool homework time. Good thing all around for the most part.

Last Thursday, Youngest came home with a note on Horde Central scrap paper. It said "Birthday Girl would like to invite Youngest Duckling to her birthday party on Sunday at Local YWCA from 1:30 to 4pm. If she'd like to come, please call us--we'd love to have her." It was signed "K-name Lastname" and a phone number was included.

Well fine...I knew the primary afternoon supervisor was a "K-name" and that her last name was something similar to the given "LastName" so I assumed that's who was doing the inviting. I further thought that the note was because HBF had been picking up Youngest all week but "social" things are usually done through mothers. I thought that an invitation on Thursday for a party THAT Sunday wasn’t much notice, but also realized that the people at Horde Central have an even higher tolerance for chaos than I’ve developed. So I called right away and got an answering machine on which I left a perky "Youngest would love to come" message. Which of course counts as an adequate RSVP. Explained to Youngest Duckling that she would pick out Birthday Girl's present on Saturday morning when I took Middle Duckling to buy a present for his friend's birthday party. I expected a bowling-alley party since that was the kind the last two "YWCA" parties for grade-schoolers turned out to be-- Eldest Duckling had been to a couple a few years ago.

Sunday rolled around so I took Youngest, present (Barbie with some accessories) in hand, to the Y at just before one-thirty and discovered that the Birthday Family wasn't even there yet. SWELL. The responsibility of the partygoer's parent is to drop off and pick up their Little Darling on time but it is the responsibility of the party THROWER's parents to make sure the damned EVENT starts and ends on time. So we stood around till the Birthday Girl and her family showed up, whereupon I discovered that "K-name" was NOT the woman who worked at Horde Central but rather some random parent I didn't recall ever having met before. I said "Hi, I'm Sam D, Youngest Duckling's mom" and stuck out my hand which seemed to sort of surprise this woman, who took it and rather vaguely said "HI, I'm K-name...we're so GLAD you could make it after all!" I could tell that she hadn't expected us to be there, which I thought odd since I had left that damned message the night I got the note. So I said "But I left you a message" in tones that were a little sharper than I would've liked but still well within the bounds of politeness.

That was when K-name replied "Oh yeah, sometimes when I'm on the other line it bounces to a different answering service, one where I have to pick up my messages...and I haven't picked them up for a while." Ever the Little Explainer, I of course realized and said out loud "Yes, it did sound like some sort of service..." whereupon she said "but we're so glad she could make it after all!" and I thought all would be fine. Turned out the party was not in the bowling alley after all but in the little-kid party room which is a big room with a plastic slide and some big blocks and other sorts of preschool-toddler toys. Well fine, whatever...I said my goodbyes to Youngest, discretely reminded her to remember her big-girl manners and beat a hasty retreat since I just don't care for the local YWCA one bit.

Did my weekly grocery shopping and had just-barely enough time to supervise the rest of the family dragging in and stowing the food before having to go fetch Youngest. Got to the gym and since the "party room" had big windows onto the parking lot I could tell as I approached that the party was Not Done. Okay, fine, that always pisses me off but it often happens, especially with first-time parents, that the party runs late and the cake and ice cream are still being consumed as the grownupss come for pickup.

Not this time. I showed up to (re)discover why I can't stand Horde Central Parents: table full of adult-friendly snack foods set up at one side of the (huge) room, table for opened presents at the far side. Little clots of parents chatting amongst themselves completely oblivious to what their children were doing. Birthday Girl in the center of the room on a chair holding Present-Opening Court which was the most gawdawful display I'd seen in a while: about a third of the children were all sitting at her feet, presents in hand, expectantly waiting for her to select one to be opened. After opening the gift, Birthday Girl would exclaim over it then immediately get up, walk to her mother at the periphery of the room somewhere and show HER the present. Birthday Girl got told repeatedly "oh how go say 'thank you' and put it on the present table." Then she would walk back to the center of the room, thank the kid and go to the OTHER side of the room to put the present with the others.

Just as I'd figured out how slowly the action was moving (but that my kid looked to be the second-to-next in line for getting her gift opened) K-name, the mother of the Birthday Girl, walked over to me. She said "Hi...she did just fine, she was a pleasure and so polite. Now since we didn't actually talk to each other she didn't know there was going to be swimming but that worked out okay because there was one other little girl without a swimsuit either so they played with each other while everyone else went in the pool."








NO that was not fucking okay, not even a little bit! First of all, any moron knows if it's gonna be a swimming party you fucking say so on the fucking invitation!! Oh wait, we didn't get one of those, we got a pencil-scribbled note on Thursday afternoon before the Sunday party. Second of all, if it is a swimming party don't you think it might've been a good idea to mention that when I dropped off my kid?!? What if she didn't swim?!? Thirdly and most importantly....Youngest Duckling loves to swim. Loves it. My poor little girl must've been heartbroken not to get to be part of that...and was clearly good and mature about it or I wouldn't have heard "a pleasure and so polite" but instead the euphemistic parental phrase "got a little upset."

Well I didn't get a chance to say anything in reply because that was when The Birthday Girl came wandering up with yet another present and did her little routine...and after that Mom drifted off to the other side of the room. Youngest Duckling caught my eye and made to get up to run to me as she always does at Horde Central but then stopped herself and stage-whispered "Mom--can I just stay till she opens my present, please?"

Gawd yes....after hearing what the kid had been through with good grace, I was kind of surprised she wanted to stay but of course I was gonna let her. She had risen above her usual (impressive) tantrum-y ways and been a Big Girl in the face of Serious Parental Fuckheadedness so she could've pretty much written her own ticket at that point.

Of course I was sorry.

My kid was not one of the "do MINE next!" kids so she kept getting bumped further and further back in the present-opening line...and kept being Perfectly Polite about it. I, on the other hand, was sighing loudly and looking at my cellphone every time I thought Mom could see or hear me. I was also just amazed that the parents were completely oblivious to what their kids were doing--sure it's a "party" and sure they're Montessori touchy-feely to begin with, but if my kid had run right into a strange grownup I didn't know I would've said something, y'know? Not them...I got clobbered in the shins by a boy two inches taller than Duckling and nobody even claimed knowledge. Youngest, however, stage-whispered me again that "it looks like mine is going to be the very last present" which just about ripped my heart in two.

Finally the Birthday Girl opened my kid's gift...whereupon I swooped in immediately with coat and shoes at the ready to haul my kid away from the craziness. Told her "now go tell your friend 'goodbye and thanks for having me'" which she did like a champ. Then I said "now we need to find your friend's mother so we can say goodbye and thanks to her too" which was much harder since the mom was making a Big Federal Case out of getting the goodie-bags ready to distribute. Still, my Duckling marched right up to her, said "goodbye! Thanks for having me!" said "thank-you" again for the goodie bag and came right back to me. Did me so proud, she did!

Hustled her out to the car...and immediately wanted to rip "K-name's" heart right out of her body when I got the Sad Voice saying "Mom....why did you forget to pack my swimsuit?" Had to patiently explain without rancor (that was the hard part) that we hadn't known it was going to be a swimming party. Then I spent the entire rest of the trip praising and loving up on my kid to no end for being such a Big Girl and so forth. Youngest Duckling seemed to be okay with the whole thing but *I* sure wasn't. Letting her have the big box of Crayola Twistables that normally lives in our bedroom (too many have been ground into the carpeting and floors for them to remain unlimited-access) didn't make me feel much better though it certainly perked her right up.

The extra bonus gut-wrenching came when I woke up Youngest yesterday morning and saw that she'd found her swimsuit in her dresser drawer and hung it over her doorknob...I commented on it and she said "yeah...just in case."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Oh and Blogger--?

It's pissing the hell out of me too. For a week now photographs which I know were there and viewable have been mysteriously white-boxed into oblivion.

My Workplace

Is making me completely crazy today. Nor do I expect the rest of winter to be one iota better.

That's all...and that's e-fucking-nough, too.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sunday Dinner

I grew up as the latchkey only child of a divorced only child which meant that my idea of "cooking" was for one or two people. It’s still rather mind-boggling to me that I’m now the Head Chef for a family of seven that contains a whole bunch of Fussy Eaters. It’s even more mind-boggling to me when I serve a dinner that not only pleases everyone but comes out all at the same time without a hitch—that’s a rare occasion indeed.

This Sunday just past was one such occasion so I thought I’d share. When I asked the family "so whaddya want for Sunday Dinner?" as I was making out the weekly grocery list I heard "The Good Chicken! And tomato salad and maybe a vegetable!"

We have a bunch of chicken recipes in our house but "The Good Chicken" is breast meat cut thin, lightly breaded and sauteed in olive oil. It goes fast at the dinner table but it’s worth making a BIG batch because it’s great in sandwiches (or just plain) the next day too. So fine, I went shopping and planned to really Do It Up Right for dinner that night.

Here’s how the preparation went:

First thing I did was turn the oven on for the crescent rolls that were going to be the starch. (Okay, that’s not entirely true: the oven was still on from the Mrs. Smith pie I’d baked for dessert while we did part of a Scholomance run in WoW. ) Then I got out all my pans: two broiler tray tops covered in foil for the crescent rolls, two 9x13 pans and one 8x8 pan for the breading station, a cutting board, a waste bowl, my big frying pan on one big front burner and my favorite red T-Fal nonstick pot on the other front burner, two serving bowls and two platters. Turned on the heat under both burners but only to "low-medium" which on my range is 3.

Ingredients next: three tomatoes, one red onion, one green pepper, the bagful of Italian yellow squash I’d bought when I saw how nasty the zucchini looked, three tubes of Pillsbury crescent rolls and the three packages of chicken I’d purchased already sliced thin. Yes I know it’s cheaper if you get big hunks of breast meat and slice them yourself but I juggle cooking against all my other more interesting home activities and am more than willing to pay for the time savings.

Washed and dried all the produce except for the onion. Chopped the tomatoes coarsely and put them directly into a serving bowl before lightly salting them. If I didn’t have a family member who would vociferously protest I would’ve added some freshly-ground black pepper too. Went to get some basil from the plant we keep in a jar by the door and discovered it had gotten spindly and flowered so I augmented with some dried that I crushed in my hands.
Sliced a tiny bit of the red onion finely and threw that into the tomato bowl—you have to have some onion but the secret is not to overdo it. Drizzled some olive oil over the whole thing, tossed it with my fingers and set it on the table to meld. Went back to the onion on the chopping board and finished slicing it into vertical strips then put it in the pot with some olive oil and a cover while I chopped the green pepper. Added the green pepper to the same pot, turned up the heat, gave it a stir and put the cover back on while I peeled the yellow squash (yes I know you can leave the peel on but these seemed thick and had some blemished spots.) Cut the squash into half-moons and threw it into the same pot.

Since there weren’t any kids nearby to draft, I took time out to do the crescent rolls and got them into the oven. The only thing left was the chicken, which was exactly how I’d planned it since chicken is a germy thing. Got the cutting board well out of the way and then set up my breading station: packages of chicken and a big stack of paper towels to the left, 8x8 pan containing two large eggs beaten with some water, 9x13 pan full of (store-bought preseasoned) bread crumbs and empty 9x13 pan. The chicken all got separated and blotted thoroughly on the paper towels to save the "flouring" step of breading—you can get away with that if the chicken is dry enough for the egg wash to stick. That was also when I evened out the size difference and got rid of the stuck-on extra bits of fat.

Time out to wash hands, stir the vegetables and deputize a wandering child to set the table. Crescent rolls weren’t done enough.

Back to the chicken, which got dunked in the egg wash with one hand then breaded and put into the empty and waiting pan with the other. That’s supposed to be the way to keep from breading and RE-breading your fingers and it does help quite a bit but I always manage to get breaded anyhow despite my best "wet hand-dry hand" efforts. Eventually I ended up with a big pan full of breaded cutlets ready for cooking.

The vegetables were done enough to take off the heat and let carry-over cooking finish them off so I did…and rescued the crescent rolls which were almost but not-quite overdone. Heaved a sigh of relief at having not burned them and then started in sauteing the chicken. That was the point at which Eldest, who had been parading around with the cordless, said "Oooh! Pan-fried chicken! I LOVE pan-fried chicken! [name of friend], I gotta call you back later!"

Always a good sign when you can pry the adolescent off the telephone.

The chicken took about three minutes per side which gave me plenty of cleanup time—you’d be amazed at how much one can accomplish in three-minute bursts. The first few pieces went straight from the pan to the plates of the children since none of them like food really hot (and neither does any other kid I’ve ever met.) I had to drain off the olive oil and wipe the burning crumbs out of the pan halfway through which was the most dangerous part of the whole operation but I managed not to touch my wrist to the edge of the hot pan. Remaining chicken to a platter, crescent rolls from trays to the other platter, veggies into the dish and hey presto! Dinner!

Total time start-to-finish was about 50 minutes and I got raves from EVERYONE. Sometimes the Fates smile on me and Sunday afternoon was one of those times. I was sated by far more than the food.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Other Knitting This Weekend

My BFJ* got me the 2007 Knitting Pattern A Day calendar which had a pattern for some cute slippers on Wednesday January 3, 2007. Immediately I recognized the yarn as Lion's Jiffy which my dimestore keeps around so I had to try out the pattern. It really is as easy as the directions suggest but the slippers turn out large. They were originally going to be for me but even after going down in needle size to one that annoyed both the yarn and my hands the slippers remained far too large for my feet.

Which was fine since BIL needed a pair.

We call them his Pagliacci slippers because I went ahead and added the pom-poms thinking he'd like them...and he does. The slippers didn't leave his feet all weekend.

I had enough yarn left to make a headband for Eldest too: seed stitch over nine stitches.

The join isn't even too terrible.

I didn't realize it till I was knitting up the yarn but it's very "desert camouflage."

*Best Friend from Junior High School

NOTE: There really are photographs there; I saw them myself when they were posted and a couple of (sporadic) times since then. Yes I know Blogger is being particularly recalcitrant. It's a free service so I can't really complain.

First Steeking

Steeking: the deliberate cutting of a piece of knitted fabric to create openings. Also something that, like sex, is quite intimidating to interested parties who've never actually tried it, which is what I was till recently.

Oh I hadn't planned it that way--I had planned to have a Holiday Vest for this winter and finished knitting a big colorful cylinder in early November. Moved right on to the Wintergarden kit with plans to use the vest as a "dry run" for the whole steeking concept before doing it on Something Fancy like the Wintergarden sweater.


My "holiday vest" sat on top of my sewing machine through all ofNovember, all of Advent, all of Christmastide and now some of Ordinary Time too. I had already decided that it was my "practice piece" for both two-color work and steeking and had therefore given myself permission to totally screw it up and even end up with a very brightly decorated cat-bed if need be. Didn't care one little bit if I ended up with yarn spaghetti, either.

So it wasn't the whole "fear" thing holding me back...but I wasn't sure what was holding me back. I belatedly realized that it was the sewing-machine bit that was the rate-limiting step: no good place or time to set the thing up and actually do the stitching. Coincidentally right after I made that discovery my knitting newsgroup started up a steeking conversation which made the whole process sound very do-able.

On the night of the new moon I said "fuck that sewing shit entirely," grabbed a pair of scissors and just whacked through the thing. Guess what? Nothing bad happened.

This is what happened:

Here's a closeup of the star pattern:

Oh sure, the yarn was very slippery (holiday acrylic with that plastic gilt thread and stash cotton) and wanted to unravel for a stitch or two at the cut edges but it wasn't anything major andit was easily hidden in a rolled edge, which is what I did to secure the undersides.

Whacked through the underarms and just rolled those too...see?

I was all about "git 'er DONE!" when I picked up the scissors and I'm glad of it. However in the future I would definitely plan my facings and cutting better since the inside of this piece has a very cobbled-together look:

The front edges are also rather thicker than I'd like but for my First Steeking it was overall a pretty good experience...better than my First Sex was.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


In my part of the world it didn't snow very much at all the entire winter...till last night.

Which figures since today is the day I'm turning in my MDX because the lease is up.

For numerous reasons including the fact that MIL brought a car with her when she moved in (so we're now vehicle-heavy) we aren't renewing the lease or getting a replacement which is bad enough since I loved that car. Couldn't ever make it break a sweat going up the hills or get it stuck in the muck either and it was the most fun vehicle I've ever driven.

Having to clear five inches of snow off both it and the follow-van is just adding insult to injury for me this morning.

Friday, January 19, 2007

So What DO I Believe?

I believe that Order and Chaos are the balancing forces of the Universe and that they are fairly tied to our human constructs of Good and Evil but not completely and with a good deal of overlap. Frankly I think Gary Gygax got it pretty much all right.

I believe we’re each born with more of a "bend" one way or the other—toward Chaos or Order—and that we do our personal best when we "play true to alignment." I suspect that "bend" has to do with the spins of the subatomic particles of which we’re formed, but I tend not to mention that crackpot theory...or that I associate order with a warm pinky-salmony orange and chaos with a dark midnight blue, either.

Which means I adore what Matt Groening had Bender say in Futurama: "Good, Evil…Ah, they’re both fine choices; whatever floats your boat."

I believe the Universe is more complex and interconnected than we have any clue and that cosmology and quantum physics are a lot more linked to what we consider spiritual or religious beliefs than either side would care to consider.

I believe that humans made the gods in their own images, not the other way around. Also that the Universe is so fantastic and inspiring that we don’t need gods to explain its existence or our own; we should be happily praising what we do have and attempting to explore this vast wonderland with the cultural intellect and tools we’ve developed over the millenia.

I believe that as the current most evolved species on the planet we have an obligation to the earth and to our fellow humans not to make the path any worse for those who come after us. By "fellow humans" I mean exactly that: ALL humans, not just those of whatever particular in-group makes us feel comfortable.

Speaking of humans, I believe that what makes each of us "us"--our soul if you like--lives in our brains and our white cells.

I believe a bunch of other stuff too, but that's enough heresy for a snowy Friday morning.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I Feel A Rant Coming On...

A few days ago my dear friend V sent me an article about same-sex custody issues. Which got me thinking...

First, I just do not GET the whole fuss about same-sex marriage in the first place. Have never understood the outrage and never will. When I was a kid I was surprised to learn that two people of the same gender couldn't marry-- after all, they were both grownups. I still feel that way some thirty-odd years later. I completely do not accept the notion that "traditional" marriage is somehow threatened or endangered by same-sex unions and think all the opponents of the idea should just mind their own business and stop trying to tell others what to do. Of course same-sex couples should be able to marry and have the full weight of law behind them. Life is hard enough: when you do find someone with which to share it the whole community should be 100% behind you regardless of who the someone is.

Naturally I think committed couples of all types should raise children if they wish. I don't think it makes a damned bit of difference whether you have two mommies or two daddies or one of each: the important things are love and consistency. I do think that having (at least) two adults per child-rearing unit is a good idea because parenting is HARD and having to do it without backup is harder still, but plenty of single parents and their kids do just fine too.

That said, when couples with children break up the problems are always the same: who gets the kid(s) and who pays support and how do all the involved lives change? It doesn't matter if you're a two-mommy family or a two-daddy family or a "traditional" one of each; breaking up is almost never good for the kids.

Which is why I think committed couples who have chosen to raise families together should fucking get some conflict resolution going and STAY together. (Before you go flaming me in the comments, I'm not talking about units where bigtime emotional, physical or substance abuse is involved; I'm talking about couples like my parents who decided "this just isn't working any more" or the ever-popular "no-fault" divorce. ) Sure marriage is hard and raising a family is even harder, but once you make a lifetime commitment not just to your partner but also by definition to the family you've both established you should keep that commitment. Otherwise it sends a very wrong message to the kids, namely "it's okay to break even BIG promises sometimes."

No, it isn't.

A much better message to send to the kids is "Sure, we get angry at each other...sometimes very angry at each other over big issues that aren't easily fixed. Sometimes we get sad and very unhappy too...but we always eventually work it out one way or another."

That's what conflict resolution is for. Don't break up; learn to fight fairly! It really is an obtainable skill just like any other.

Occasionally HBF will jokingly say "so...gonna pack your bags and leave?" and I always snap back "that would be pretty damned selfish, wouldn't it?"

Yes, it would.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Afghan Update

As you can see, I started joining the squares.

I like how it's turned out but I'll be glad to go back to a thicker yarn.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Oh and also--?

Funny how minds run in tandem...I just now this instant read what Ray had to say on his blog concerning faith and spirituality and couldn't agree more.

Check it out.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Domestic Update

I finally succumbed and switched to the "new" Blogger. Let's hope it doesn't suck.

Cooking first: SuperCrockPot did not implode when I threw two boxes of frozen meatballs in it with a jar and a half of marinara sauce rinsed out with balsamic vinegar. Good thing too since it resulted in some awesome hoagies that night. I've also done "my" potroast which is super-easy: in addition to the slab of meat you need one or two onions and two packages (one box) of onion soup mix. Slice onion, place half on bottom of crockpot then use the two packages of onion soup mix as a dry rub all over the meat making sure that all the bits of dehydrated onion end up in the pot and not on the kitchen floor--I do it over foil then put meat in pot and dump in whatever was on the foil. Remaining onions go on top.

I tried the most palatable of the recipes from the fancy-schmancy guide that came with the beast: Sweet Potatoes with Apples and Onions. It was pretty much exactly what it sounds like with some melted butter tossed in. I was supposed to add Herbes de Provence but of course I didn't have any and couldn't remember what was in it. After discovering the very-easily-overdone rosemary and thyme were both part of the mix I decided to go with some plain ol' sweet basil instead. It all cooked down into a delightful side dish...but nobody else liked it except for MIL. She and I ate the stuff for a week.

Yesterday however, I tried a new recipe from this month's Family Circle magazine. It's their "Asian Pepper Beef" (or whatever they called it) and it turned out really well although next time I will NOT be adding the "one cup of beef stock" they suggest since I ended up with a soup. I've had that problem with crockpot cooking before: I don't think the recipe writers realize that a crock pot is by definition an organic chemistry refluxer and thus no water leaves the vessel during cooking. The smart thing I did was to use prepackaged chow mein noodles as the starch since that turned dinner into an instant event as soon as I walked in the door and made everyone happy besides--chow mein noodles are fun. Also one of my family members doesn't care for rice in any form. It made enough for good leftovers and since the seasoning is pretty bland it's going to come back later on as fajita filling after I've added a can of diced green chiles and some Mexene.

Holidays second: Finally got Christmas put away yesterday. I always make sure to take down all the outside stuff on Epiphany and I don't let the kids actually plug in the tree after that either but it usually takes a few more days to get things boxed and stowed. Like others I believe that we should enjoy all twelve days of Christmastide but that once they're over we should put the stuff away till next year.

Which brings up another question, namely why does a self-professed atheist pay so much attention to the religious trappings of Christmas? Well, because we're celebrating Christmas and not Solstice or Kwanzaa or Hanukkah or any other winter festival. All of which are well and good and fine but not our household's holidays. So as Grandmom always said, if you're going to go to the dance, then dance (although it sounded much better in Italian.) One can certainly debate both the divinity and existence of Jesus Christ and a good argument can be made that the whole holiday started so as to enfold pre-existing solstice celebrations, but if you're going to celebrate Christmas you have to first acknowledge that WHAT you're celebrating is the birth of a baby who grew up to be the cornerstone of the Christian faith.

Since we're here anyway I'll riff on "faith" for a bit, starting with my lack thereof. It just never "took" with me. I was raised on the Time-Life Nature and Science books and thought evolution and ancient hominids were just about the coolest thing ever...and I was raised IN a house run by a man who at the time was a rabid atheist so the idea of a single Creator-God just never grew in my psyche. Neither did the concept that "religion" was what told a person about right from wrong and not harming others since we didn't have any in our house.

That changed when my parents got divorced. Turned out that my mother actually did believe and had just been keeping her mouth shut the first eight years of my life. She started going back to her flavor of church, which was Methodist, so I did too. Made a friend who happened to be the son of the music director so I started singing in the choir and liked it really well. The ritual was fun, the robes were fun, the people were fascinating and it was all very I kept going even though I didn't believe.

At around 15 I started seriously exploring religions. I had noticed that lots of them claimed to be the one right path and that many of their practitioners seemed to have an inner calmness and sense of purpose that was appealing, so I investigated. I did a lot of reading and a lot of going with friends to their ceremonies and a lot of really trying to believe and kept it up for literally an entire decade before concluding that none of them were for me. They all had their truly kind and generous practitioners and seemed to be at least in part designed to help us all go against our greedier instincts and live with one another in ways that raise the baseline for everyone...but they also all required blind faith and commitment to sets of ideas with which I didn't entirely agree.

I also discovered that religion was a great place for the seriously lazy and the fierce charlatans to take up residence and that wars fought with religion as their base tended to be the longest and bloodiest because both sides thought the One True God was with them.

Fortunately I found a like-minded soul in HBF (who came by way of a Catholic-school education.) We do just fine without religion although we've taken an incredible amount of shit for raising the children that way. Which really pisses me off since I think the choice not to practice a religion is just as valid. (An aside: my opinion of Tony Blair went up greatly when he used the phrase "for those of all religions and those of no religion" in a speech; it was so nice to be included for once!) What we tell the kids over and over is "because we don't believe in any religion it's important to respect all of them and their practitioners."

By now they've certainly overheard me saying (usually when MIL is watching the Hour of Power) things along the line of "I can't believe people actually send him/her/them money; if he/she/they were really interested in helping the other humans he/she/they would be out there DOING GOOD and not standing there talking about it!" On the other hand they've also seen me respecting hell out of MIL's choice to watch that show; I delay the grocery shopping for that reason alone every single week.

"Tolerance" and "peaceful coexistence" are big buzzwords of mine. Wish they were for everyone else on the planet too.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Afghan

Nothing like having too many irons in the fire so when Ray's wonderful superwash yarn came I had to cast on for a new afghan. That's Eldest demonstrating the first actual knitting I've done since a week or two before Christmas...and yes that's the longest I've gone without knitting in at least six years.

Youngest is pointing out the lovely paired decreases and contrasting color which give design interest

Here's how the layout will eventually work. I like the pointy edges quite a bit.

Although I've made my mother several knitted items, this is going to be the very first thing that was designed specifically for her from inception to completion. Even I don't yet know what kind of juju that will make.

I DO know that it's already caused me to rethink decreases. (Non-knitters stop right here lest you fall asleep due to boredom and spill beverage into your keyboard.) There are two ways to make a decrease (with the left-hand loop sitting on top or with the right-hand loop sitting on top) and the afghan uses both of them for a symmetric look. When combined with the garter-stitch contrast-color stripes one learns a very important lesson:

The way one does a decrease depends on what one did the row before.

Which means that on some rows of this afghan square you do "K2tog" followed by "Slip one, knit one, psso" or "SKP" or "SSK" (or whatever your preferred notation for "the opposite of knitting two together" but on some rows you do them in the opposite order.

This makes the "words" directions kind of senseless. This is also why charts are so good. They show the damned decrease so that you can make yours look like theirs via whatever method works...and usually have suggestions at the bottom about how.

Organic chemistry had a nomenclature revolution once and I think it's time that knitting did too. From now on I personally am going to think and use exclusively the terms LLD for "left-leaning decrease" and RLD for "right-leaning decrease" and hope it catches on.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Baby Surprise Jacket

This is from Elizabeth Zimmerman's pattern and was knit a while ago (before Thanksgiving I think) but is still waiting to have the velcro and flowers sewn on, hence the pins. It's for the eldest daughter of my BFH who is having a baby in March and was done in indestructible baby polyester from the dimestore, Iforgetwhichkind. The pattern is great; it doesn't look like much at all but if you have faith you get an origami-like thing that pops into the cutest little jacket when done!

The Crocheted Afghan

The Southern Pearls fingering weight yields fourteen of these squares per skein which is perfect: three skeins turn into an afghan of 6x7. A "lapghan" actually (or baby blanket) since the squares are only about 6" each.

Youngest Duckling is helping display the colors and design--she was entranced by the flower-like centers.

Other Nativity Scenes

You can't see the white glass one very well at all but that's okay since it's sporting a headless Joseph. We also have Grandmom's big "traditional" Nativity scene on the other side of the credenza for balance.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Politics Again

The more I hear about Ford the better I like him even though I was too young to pay much attention when he was President. Even G.W. Bush went on about how decent he was; I kept saying “unlike you” to the television set.

The Saddam Hussein execution…oh my.

I love cellphone video because it makes ALL of us photojournalists and will bring real truth to the Fourth Estate. In this case it proves that the government we installed in Iraq includes a some vengeful wretches. I personally don't think any governing body ought to be allowed to take human life but if the regime IS going to do the execution thing at least give the event as much dignity and civility as can be mustered and don't reduce it to the "string-em-up" mentality of the Old West. That murdering torturing crazyassed dictator ended up inadvertently dying well and will no doubt become a martyr to enough people to make the problems over there even worse...

...and it all happened on a US military base, which was such shocking news to me last night that I snorted tea up my nose and nearly got my WoW character killed. Shocking enough that I wanted to see it in print and have: “The execution took place at the 5th Division intelligence office in Qadhimiya, Northern Baghdad” is easily found all over the web. Nevermind that the recent press release by the US military avoids that fact in favor of mentioning that transport "in the past had been to the courthouse" which is a bit of very careful spin.

Speaking of the US military..."surge and accelerate" toward WHAT?!? You know there's got to be some sort of endpoint or objective to give the troops but unless our President is talking occupation of a level greater than the stormtroopers in any of the Star Wars movies, there ain't gonna be a free and peaceful Iraq. Whether we like it or not we created a civil war in that country which is going to eventually run its course with or without us...and I vote loudly for without.

Olbermann's monologue on sending more troops last night was so good I'm taping it to the inside of my office door....right on top of the other Olbermann monologue transcript already there.

Our Favorite Nativity Scene

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I wasn't kidding about the duck.

Grammar Rant

Nancy Pelosi is the first female Speaker of the House. She is NOT the first "woman" Speaker of the House, dammit!

I change the channel every time I hear that one--been busy with the remote lately.

When did the newscasters lose the ability to speak the language correctly? When? My kids will tell you I'm forever correcting talking-head "different than" and "try and" constructions, not that it does any good.

I miss Walter Cronkite.